THE PINSENT MASONS DUBAI INTERNSHIP – MY EXPERIENCE
Two weeks of informative presentations, challenging tasks, looming deadlines, but also lots of good laughs and hang outs – not to forget the trip we made to the DIFC courts!
The Dubai office
On arrival to the Dubai office on the first day, one could not but notice the astounding skyline of Dubai’s financial centre. Lucky for us interns, this was the same scene we got to view for the duration of two weeks. The new office, which the Dubai team had just moved into, was situated at the outskirts of the financial centre. It was a very helpful coincidence that the area, the office was situated in, was witnessing a vast array of construction projects. In fact, wherever you moved inside the office you could not help but see a plethora of cranes, builders and scaffolding in your sight. This was useful because the solicitors in the construction team were able to illustratively explain to us some of the main causes of disputes in the construction industry. By the end of the first day, we were all very impressed by the distinctive way in which the firm operates in the Middle East. The firm copes well with the Middle East’s unique culture, way of doing business and differing laws. The secret to this success is the passion and diversity of its work force, which includes native English and Arabic speakers.
Pinsent Masons values
After a few days at the office, one also starts to realise that the core values of Pinsent Masons are at the heart of everything its employees do. The values of being approachable, bold and connected dictate how each person conducts himself towards others at the firm and to the outside world. Despite the different personalities, everyone at the firm seems to share these values. Essentially, they are what makes someone a Pinsent Masons person.
The culture which the Dubai office cultivates is truly brilliant and encouraging. The open office structure means that personal assistants, paralegals, trainees, solicitors, senior solicitors, and partners all have easy access to one another. Instead of knocking on a colleague’s door and waiting to go in, or ringing them it can be as simple as going up to their desk. This boosts transparency, effectiveness and teamwork. Notably, members of the Dubai team are able to strike a very good balance between knowing when any of their ranks is busy and when they have capacity. This is an interesting feature about Pinsent Masons’ approachability value. It does not merely implicate the receiving side, but also that side who is approaching.
The Dubai team, namely those working contentious, are able to impressively combine approachability with boldness. In fact, as a senior solicitor humorously described it, ‘it may sometimes seem rather stupid.’ She was referring to the Dubai team being unafraid to rise to the challenge, and vigorously defend the interests of its clients whoever they may be and whoever they may be in dispute with. This has strengthened the firm’s reputation, not only among its clients but also those who its clients are in dispute with.
Whichever way you look at it, Pinsent Masons is a well-connected firm – from within and to the outside world. In fact, it is essential for international law firms to be connected because of the complexity of disputes, and their cross border and sector nature. ‘Communication, collaboration, flexibility and trust are absolutely key,’ says one solicitor in the Dubai office. For example, on acting for a client which is in dispute with another party, the construction team may work with:
- the corporate team – which may have helped the client establish a business in one of the free zones of the UAE and obtained for it the necessary licenses and permits to operate;
- the property and transactions teams – which may have been responsible for carrying out pre contract enquiries and for drafting the contract with the other party; and
- the litigation team – which may be responsible for taking the defendant to court in the UAE.
This also reflects Pinsent Masons’ sectorial approach. It means that the firm’s main clients in the construction industry, for example, would also instruct the firm for any of their litigation, employment or corporate matters. This helps Pinsent Masons implement a 360oholistic approach to acting for clients. Such a strategy increases the firm’s revenues, furthers its reputation and reduces costs for its clients – due to the clients’ inherent familiarity.
Restaurants, pubs and the DIFC Courts
For the Dubai team the first few days of the internship were also an ‘examination of the area’ period, because they had just moved into the new office. Together we would try nearby restaurants and pubs and share our feedback . Our favourites were a Japanese restaurant, partly because it was the closest and perhaps more importantly because we were given a 25% discount, and an Irish sports pub, which was just a few minutes away.
On our last day at the office, the Dubai team had prepared for us a visit to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts, generally described as ‘Common Law island in a Civil Law ocean.’ We were given a presentation about the DIFC courts, followed by attending a case hearing. It was exciting to see counsel for two prominent law firms addressing Justice Sir David Steel, a past English High Court judge, by video conference. One of the questions before the court was whether the DIFC Court or the UAE courts had jurisdiction to hear the case. We were pleased to fully understand most of the arguments put forward by counsel. The internship had introduced us to many of the jurisdictional issues present in the UAE legal context today.
Overall, the Dubai internship is a one of a kind experience which gives an unparalleled insight into the works of a leading law firm operating in a unique and dynamic jurisdiction.
Mustafa Darwich completed the workplace shadowing placement in August 2016 find out more about the programme here